Friday, November 13, 2009

Reading Aloud

It’s a good idea to read your stories aloud as part of the editing process. You might fly over too much when reading your words and miss something that needs to be addressed. As you read aloud, there are a few things to listen for.

Mouthful of marbles. Watch out for tongue twisters of any type. Also, be cautious of alliteration. “The droll drummer dripped dry.” Dreadful! In fantasy especially, writers often create unique names, but in doing so, make sure the names aren’t impossible to pronounce. I once had a character named Captain Trasifmer. When family members saw the name, no one could pronounce it correctly without slowing their speech dramatically.

Runaway trains. Don’t cram three hundred words into one sentence. If you find yourself unable to take a breath, this indicates a problem. My runaway trains have a tendency to appear in dialogue. Ping-pong comments between characters go shooting past. Suddenly I’ve read two pages without understanding much because I didn’t have a chance to ponder anything. I’m not saying that pacing can’t quicken, but it should be controlled so that a reader doesn’t feel like he or she is hurtling through your story.

Arrhythmia. Stories are not poems, but I’ve noticed that many of my favorite stories have an even rhythm to them. Sometimes this rhythm changes speed, but the pattern itself doesn’t change. I think sentence lengths offer some clues about a story’s rhythm; when short and long sentences are jumbled around arbitrarily, it feels like a car with a jumpy engine.

You might even ask someone else to read your story aloud or record yourself reading it. How does it sound?

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